A man accused of killing a New Jersey man he says sexually abused him in childhood, and who is a person of interest in the deaths of his ex-wife and three other people in New Mexico, claims to be responsible for 16 deaths in all, prosecutors said.
Sean Lannon, 47, said he was responsible for the killings in New Jersey and New Mexico and claimed he had killed “11 other individuals”, NJ.com quoted Alec Gutierrez, an assistant prosecutor in Gloucester county, as saying at a detention hearing on Friday.
“He admitted to killing a total of 16 people … 15 being in New Mexico and one in the state of New Jersey,” Gutierrez said. “It’s my understanding that the FBI is assisting New Mexico in their investigation.”
Authorities allege the admission came in a phone call to a family member who told Gloucester county investigators Lannon expressed remorse.
Lannon was arrested in St Louis on Wednesday, driving a car stolen from Michael Dabkowski, the New Jersey victim. Lannon is now in custody in New Jersey, accused of breaking into Dabkowski’s home and beating him with a hammer on Monday, according to an affidavit.
Lannon is also a person of interest in the death of his wife and three others in New Mexico. Authorities say a vehicle was discovered last week in a garage at Albuquerque International Sunport, New Mexico’s largest airport, containing four bodies.
The bodies were identified as Jennifer Lannon, 39; Matthew Miller, 21; Jesten Mata, 40; and Randal Apostalon, 60. Sean Lannon lived 80 miles away in Grants, New Mexico.
Gutierrez alleged that Lannon admitted luring several victims to a home in New Mexico and dismembering some.
Apart from the five deaths already described by investigators, authorities had not earlier spoken of any other killings in which Lannon was a suspect. He has been charged only in the New Jersey killing and has not been charged in New Mexico.
The public defender Frank Unger challenged probable cause for the New Jersey murder charge, arguing that Lannon entered the home of Dabkowski, 66, in East Greenwich Township with permission and that the acts that followed amounted at worst to passion provocation manslaughter, NJ.com reported.
Unger alleged that Lannon had been abused and went to the home to retrieve photos because he didn’t want anyone “to have control over me any longer”.
Dabkowski mentored Lannon and his twin brother through a Big Brothers program in the 1980s, NJ.com said. Lannon told investigators Dabkowski sexually abused him and that he went to the man’s home to retrieve sexually explicit photos. Unger said Dabkowski had “documented those sexual assaults, those rapes, by taking pictures of himself with Mr Lannon in sexually compromised positions”.
Unger said Lannon retrieved two hammers from Dabkowski’s garage and gave them to the victim, saying, “You’re going to need these. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I would suggest that this fact alone illustrates this was not purposeful murder. He did not even bring a weapon to the home,” he said, further alleging that Dabkowski attacked his client and was then killed.
Unger also challenged prosecutors’ comments on the New Mexico murders, saying Lannon hadn’t been charged in those cases. The New Jersey superior court judge Mary Beth Kramer told prosecutors to confine their presentation to information relevant to the New Jersey case but allowed limited references to the New Mexico cases.
Gutierrez said the New Mexico victims had been lured to a home and argued that the idea of Lannon having been invited into Dabkowski’s home “should be looked at through the lens of at least three prior incidents in New Mexico”.
“Those individuals, self-admittedly, were lured into the residence and subsequently murdered,” he said.
Unger argued for pretrial release, saying his client had no prior convictions and was an army veteran with an honorable discharge. Although born in Massachusetts, Lannon spent most of his youth in Gloucester county before he was deployed to Germany. He has family in southern New Jersey including his mother and sister and could stay locally on electronic monitoring if released, Unger said.
Gutierrez said Lannon adopted an assumed name to avoid detection when he returned to the east coast and was also arrested in New Mexico several weeks ago for failure to appear and spent a week in jail.
Gutierrez alleged that Lannon admitted to dismemberment of victims and efforts to conceal evidence and “is a significant danger to the community, based on those statements”.
The judge agreed. Lannon remains behind bars.